Who Are the Key Players at the Paris+ Fair This Year? Meet 5 Trailblazing Art-World Women Making Their Mark
Meet the inspiring artists, curators, and patrons diversifying the cultural landscape, both locally and from afar.
This week, the Paris art scene is abuzz as collectors, curators, and artists converge in the City of Lights for Paris+ par Art Basel (Oct. 18–22). Hailing from New York to London, Cape Town to Beirut, the 154 galleries participating in this year’s fair are bringing their A game to the Grand Palais Éphémère. “This second edition of Paris+ promises to be even denser and more exciting than the first. The foretaste we had through the previews of different galleries shows high-quality curations, an even greater, original, and refreshing diversity of the artists presented,” said Cathia Lawson-Hall, a collector, patron, philanthropist, and changemaker, actively helping artists of the African diaspora enter the collections of major French institutions, such as the Centre Pompidou.
Outside of the fair, Paris+ will also be activating the capital with public works across five locations, including landmarks like Jardin des Tuileries and Place Vendôme—of course, museums, too, are hosting an exhilarating mix of shows. Making this all possible are key players like Lawson-Hall who are transforming the Parisian art scene both during the fair and for years to come.
Read on to discover five art world innovators who are making a mark at Paris+ fair this year.
After receiving rave reviews for recent shows, including one at New York’s Swiss Institute earlier this year, Ser Serpas has become one of the art world’s must-watch talents. The L.A.-born, Paris-based visual artist, poet, and activist, known to create enthralling sculptures from discarded items, has returned to the Bourse de Commerce-Pinault Collection. Previously featured in the institution’s opening exhibition in 2021, Serpas is now taking over a gallery with “I fear (J’ai peur).”
“I attempted to bring a scene from one of my favorite films to life in this installation. I wanted the dream logic of this scene in particular to be as palpable as it was for me in recalling it,” Serpas said, referencing Alejandro Amenábar’s film The Others. Employing fabric-covered sculpture and floating canvases, Serpas evokes the unsettling, ghostly presence of an abandoned house featured in the eerie fantasy flick. Having collected the objects on view for months, she adds that this is the installation she has spent the most time working on. “I hope audiences will either want to spend hours in the space or run out immediately.”
Founder of Marfa’ Projects
Founded in 2015 by Joumana Asseily, Marfa’ Projects is one of 14 emerging galleries mounting solo presentations as part of the fair’s Galeries Émergentes section this year. Asseily has become a force in promoting Beirut’s diverse contemporary art scene, and for Paris+ she will present a new body of work by photographer, filmmaker, and editor, Mohamad Abdouni. Documenting queer communities within the Arab region, Abdouni has produced a series of pseudo-archival images reimagining the life of Em Abed, an actual Lebanese trans woman who fearlessly dared to embrace her identity during the 1990s.
“Mohamad’s work combines two powerful messages. At its core, he exposes his extensive archival work of trans women in Lebanon of the ’80s and ’90s, a significant and highly relevant body of work in today’s environment. But above and beyond this base, Mohamad takes the bold step of asking the question that is shaking the foundations of the art world: what is A.I.’s place in it?” Asseily told Artnet of Abdouni who utilizes A.I. to generate new images from archival ones. His work begs the question, “Are the newly generated stories and photos any less relevant than the older and necessarily incomplete ones?”
Founder of Bortolami Gallery
Participating at Paris+ for the first time, New York’s Bortolami Gallery has been supporting established and midcareer contemporary artists, such as Daniel Buren and Barbara Kasten, since 2005. “Our aim is to broaden the audience for two female artists who were either overlooked in their own context, in the case of Mary Obering, as a Minimalist American painter—or who have amassed wide acclaim but from afar, as Leda Catunda has in Brazil,” Italian-born dealer Stefania Bortolami said of the gallery’s Paris+ presentation. While Obering, who died last year, is known for her geometric minimalist paintings, and Catunda for her multidisciplinary work incorporating textiles, their practices are united in their bold use of color. The unique pairing is a refreshing offering for a major fair chockful of works by art history’s titans.
Bortolami added, “Both artists have expanded the possibilities for abstract painting, honing in on unexpected materials and mastering their applications. Catunda and Obering’s paintings are at once incredibly surprising and familiar in their dialogue with the tenets of abstraction.”
Collector and Philanthropist
Influential across industries, Cathia Lawson-Hall’s many hats include Senior Banker at SGCIB (Société Générale Corporate and Investments Banking), where she covers large corporations and financial institutions in Africa. In 2019, her husband, Philip, and she co-founded the Centre Pompidou’s Cercle International – Afrique, the only acquisition committee in France dedicated to enriching modern and contemporary collections through the works of artists from the African region. Lawson-Hall is also on the Board of the Amis du Centre Pompidou, which in June, launched the “Paris Noir” acquisition fund, focused on works by African-American and African artists living in Paris during the 1950s until the 1980s.
In addition to the fair’s “Conversations at the Centre Pompidou” series, Lawson-Hall’s advocacy will be felt at the Acacias Art Center, where she is part of the organization’s Reiffers Art Initiative artistic committee, promoting young French talents. Opening October 18, Acacias Art Center will present its third mentorship exhibition, featuring artists Lorna Simpson and Gaëlle Choisne, whom Simpson mentored.
On Lawson-Halls fair week bucket list: Pace’s Paris+ booth featuring young British artist Pam Evelyn, whom she calls “a once-in-a-blue-moon talent;” American artist Danielle Mckinney at Max Hetzler Gallery’s Paris+ booth; Cameroonian artist Ludovic Nkoth’s first French solo exhibition at Le Corbusier’s Maison La Roche; and Kehinde Wiley’s portrait series of African heads of state at Musée du Quai Branly.
Curator and Art Historian
Previously the director at both the contemporary art museum at the Château de Rochechouar as well as Les Abattoirs, Musée – Frac Occitanie Toulouse, now recently appointed director of the Louvre-Lens Museum, Annabelle Ténèze reflects the vibrancy of French culture and curation beyond the capital. For the second year in a row, she will play an instrumental role in Paris+ public art component by curating an exhibition in the Tuileries Garden, in collaboration with the Musée du Louvre. Titled “La cinquième saison (The fifth season),” the show will draw from Ténèze’s 2022 Tuileries show “La Suite de l’Histoire (The Aftermath of History).”
“Among the various proposals I’ve received this year, several works question what it means to live and inhabit the world today, whether as an animal or a human being, on a dramatically changing planet. Water is present on several occasions, including in projects not intended for ponds,” Ténèze said in an interview for Art Basel. Among the artists being featured are Swiss artist Claudia Comte, South African artist Zanele Muholi, and Malagasy artist Joël Andrianomearisoa, whose intervention can be seen in the restored basins of the Exèdres, as well as on the Louvre’s façade, elevators, and toilets. “He even slipped love letters into the books in the library,” added Ténèze.
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